About two weeks ago in a regular season game against the defending champions Golden State Warriors, Lakers star LeBron James went down with a strained groin and did not return. There was no timeline for his return, and as he sat out, the Lakers started to lose a lot of games, resulting in a step out of the playoff picture. The Lakers needed him badly, and as a result, Lakers fans were relieved to find out that their 15-time NBA all-star was cleared to play without any minute restrictions January 31st against the Los Angeles Clippers.
LeBron seemed to be back at full health: In a heavy 40 minutes of playing time, the 4-time MVP put up 24 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. He was draining shots, facilitating the offense, and getting into plays defensively. He showed off his spectacular court vision numerous times throughout the contest, including a beautiful pinpoint full court baseball-style pass to Kyle Kuzma in transition towards the end of the first quarter.
Lakers small forward Lance Stephenson was also getting in on the action, draining some big shots in overtime to keep his team in it. As LeBron and Stephenson were heating up, so was Clippers bench star Lou Williams. Williams was hitting countless shots for the Clippers in the fourth quarter and overtime to keep his team in the game. However, the LeBron and Stephenson duo was too much for the Clippers to handle. Stephenson put up 20 points off of the bench; 12 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime.
With the Clippers down by 3 points with 2.8 seconds remaining, the Lakers tuned over the ball while attempting an inbound play. The ball went into the hands of Lou Williams, however he was not able to get a shot off thanks to a great defensive play from Lakers’ Josh Hart and Rajon Rondo, who came up with the chase-down block.
It was an important win for the Lakers, who are desperate for a playoff spot. With the win, they are now the ninth seed in the western conference; one game behind the LA Clippers. Had they lost the game, the Lakers would’ve found themselves as the eleventh seed in the west, but LeBron continued to prove that his Lakers are true title contenders. It’ll be interesting to see how the standings will shape out to be like, if LeBron manages to stay healthy.